Earlier in the week, I went out for dinner with my loved ones. After we ate, our waiter brought a card terminal over to our table, typed in what we owed, then placed the terminal in my hands. I stuck my card in the slot, typed my PIN in, then handed the waiter his terminal back. A receipt was printed off, my card was returned, and the transaction was complete.
While this might not sound like a terribly interesting story, believe it or not, it truly is.
In a handful of seconds, this restaurant connected with a payment processor, its bank, my bank, and a card network in order to determine if I had sufficient funds to pay my bill. This process happened almost instantaneously. When you take a moment to appreciate this, you can see how far technology has come, particularly with regard to everyday financial transactions.
Earlier in the year, another milestone was revealed: debit and credit transactions made up for over 50% of retail transactions. Also, people are spending at least 50% more with cards than they do on cash transactions. This was the first time such occurrences had ever happened. As it turns out, consumers are spending a lot more of their money with debit/credit cards then they do with cash. More interestingly, they are spending with cards more frequently.
Since customers seem to be moving towards using cards instead of cash, businesses, then, need to accept debit/credit card payments in order to remain competitive. To achieve this, you will require what is known as a PDQ device.
The following article will navigate you through fundamentals. It will go over various PDQ types, what payments it accepts, how to get a cheap PDQ machine, and what PDQ charges you can expect, and what and what your purchasing options are. Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question. I will respond to them at my earliest convenience!
What Sort of PDQ Devices Are Available?
A Processing Data Quickly (PDQ) device is a machine used by merchants to accept non-cash payments from customers. Such devices are sometimes referred to as PIN and Chip machines, point-of-sale (POS) terminals, and credit card payment terminals.
This device reads data that is stored on customers’ cards, accepts their PIN numbers, then relays that data to an acquiring bank. Such details are complex, so I will not elaborate on them in this article. For a detailed rundown on the particulars of card payments, have a look at an article we wrote on the subject by clicking here.
In the United Kingdom, there are a few different types of card machine devices: portable, mobile, and countertop. Each one has their own pros and cons, as we are about to learn.
The next section of this article will go over the three types of card terminals devices. We will talk about their pros, cons, and common uses.
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First Type: Portable PDQ Devices
Movable or portable PDQ devices connect to battery-powered base stations via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. They allow you to accept payments without standing right next to a base station. Such PDQ devices are convenient in large premises when payments need to be taken from various mobile locations, as opposed to one checkout spot.
Portable devices tend to be used by restaurants and bars. You’ll often find staff accepting payments from customers right at their tables.
Bluetooth devices have a range maximum of approximately 100 meters. Granted, that distance will probably be a lot less inside of larger structures. When they are used indoors, Wi-Fi machines generally have up to a 50-meter range.
Portable PDQ devices commonly used include the Verifone VX680, Ingenico iWL252, Ingenico iWL222, Spire SPw60, and Spire M4240.
Second Type: Mobile PDQ Devices
Mobile card machines devices use a mobile phone network (GSM or GPRS) to remain connected with a business location that is fixed. Ideally, you should be able to use mobile card terminal devices to accept payments no matter where you are. Having said that, because you are dependent on a mobile phone’s signal, you won’t be able to accept payments without one.
Mobile chip and pin devices are generally used by commercial entities where payments are accepted off-premises. Common users include traveling salespeople, market traders, debt collectors, and tradesmen, among others.
Popular mobile PDQ devices include the Verifone VX675, Ingenico iWL251, Ingenico iWL221, Spire SPw70, and Spire M4230.
Third Type: Countertop Chip and Pin Devices
Countertop card machine devices happen to be the most commonly used of the three types. Odds are you see dozens of them every day.
These devices are ideal for businesses that accept payments from a designated portion of the premises. This tends to be applicable to many retail establishments where payments are made at a specified checkout area.
As you would expect, countertops are the cheapest PDQ machine available of the traditional machine types.
Fourth Type: Mobile Card Payment Readers
Over the last half-decade, a different kind of mobile card reader option has gained some traction. They are known as mPOS (mobile point of sale) card readers.
These devices are compact terminals, and they pair up with mobile devices through Bluetooth technology. The tablet or smartphone then connects with an acquirer through Wi-Fi, GPRS, or 3G.
Micro businesses are partial to mPOS card readers because of how inexpensive they are to purchase. There are no extra fees added to the standard transaction fee, the latter of which happens to be materially higher in contrast to conventional leased terminals.
Square, iZettle, and SumUp are several examples of mPOS card readers.
What Kinds of Payments are Accepted by credit card terminals?
Chip and Pin
Prior to 2004, a majority of debit and credit cards had magnetic stripes that held card data. After swiping their card, a merchant would ask a customer for their signature on the receipt, which served as authorization. The data would then be sent back to whoever the issuing bank was for processing. This made things easy for criminals, as they simply had to forge a signature after stealing a card.
The solution to such fraudulent activity was PIN and Chip.
Chip and Pin was initially introduced as “Europay, MasterCard, and Visa” (EMV) in Europe. It debuted in 2004. A couple of years later, it was mandatory for every card. Shortly thereafter, card fraud was cut by 13%.
Chip and Pin operates by having the authorization data stored onto a semiconductor chip that is embedded onto the card. A customer types in their PIN on the keypad. The terminal then contrasts the code they typed in against what is stored on a chip.
Since PIN and Chip became mandatory, it didn’t take long to replace payments involving magnetic stripes, which dominated most card transactions five years prior. Today, another payment method has entered the field.
While contactless cards are something that has been around for over a decade, it started to gain traction in 2012. This is when fast-food franchises and the TFL (among other transport systems) decided to introduce contactless terminals for the sake of minimizing queue times.
There is a chip that is embedded onto contactless cards containing an antenna. Card data is then transmitted to a card terminal through RFID (radiofrequency identification). Cardholders simply hold a card within 3 cm or so of a terminal for their data to get captured.
Since there is no PIN involved, there isn’t any specific way of identifying the cardholder. As such, fraud is mitigated by limiting transactions to £30 each. Note – this is inapplicable to contactless payments made through mobile means, which will be addressed below.
Android Pay and Apple Pay (as well as other systems that accept mobile payments) are fairly new options for the industry. They work very much like contactless payments do, with some slight differences.
To begin with, the service needs to be set up on a mobile device by entering payment details. From there, rather than communicating with a debit or credit card, a credit card machine engages with a small NFC (near field communication) in your mobile device, obtaining the required payment info, then progressing as usual. NFC is a variation of RFID – mobile payments and contactless payments operate in pretty much the same way.
Since your mobile device warrants biometric unlocking, a £30 limit per transaction is not applicable for mobile payments.
While it is still used occasionally, this outdated method of completing card payments involves merchants swiping a card through a terminal device. This lets the device read payment details.
For cardholder verification, your signature would be needed on the receipt. A merchant would then contrasts your signature against the one on your card.
What are card terminal charges and how to get the Cheapest PDQ machine?
Sadly, this question has no universal answer. The amount you’ll need to pay is contingent on your company, its card turnover rate, and what your requirements are.
There are several fees that will need to be paid as part of your contract with a merchant service company. I will explain some common charges you can expect below, which are categorized into three cost segments:
PDQ devices do warrant some upfront costs that need to be dealt with first.
- Set Up Costs: a fixed fee paid one time that covers installation costs for new merchants. Set up costs generally range between £50 and £ If you cut a deal with a supplier, they may be open to cutting this fee for you.
- Card Machine Purchase Costs: as far as the PDQ device goes, you have a couple of options at your disposal – renting and buying. If you opt to buy a PDQ device, it won’t come cheap – expect to pay anywhere between £200 and £800 based on the fanciness of the terminal.
There are several fees to be paid each month for things like PDQ device rentals, as well as the percentage an acquirer charges per transaction.
Here’s a rundown of the monthly charges that you can expect:
- Terminal Hire: the fundamental rental charge you will pay for a PDQ device. Prices range between £14 and £16 for fixed countertop devices, £17 to £21 for portable devices, and £20 to £24 for mobile devices. If you own the PDQ, this is a charge you won’t need to pay.
- Merchant Service Charge: a charge for every debit or credit transaction accepted by you. Charges generally range between 0.7% and 0.9% for credit and 0.25% and 0.35% for debit. Commercial cards range between 1.6% and 1.8%.
- Authorization Fees: extra charges per authorization on each transaction in order to test out a payment method. These fees range between £1 and £3 for each transaction.
- MMSC (Minimum Monthly Service Charge): this charge is levied if transactions fall under a specific level. If the other fees you pay are higher than the monthly minimum charge, then you won’t need to pay this fee. The MMSC ranges between £10 and £20 each month. Because your provider invests their money upfront, an MMSC ensures their ability to recoup their investment.
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Several irregular or one-off fees might be necessary over the course of the contract you signed, the most typical of which are chargeback fees. These need to be paid whenever cardholders request a chargeback. These fees range between £10 and £20 per chargeback.
For more information about minimizing the amount of chargebacks that you get, have a look at this article.
How Do PDQ Devices Work?
Simply put, a PDQ device captures the card data of your customer (specifically their 16 digit PAN number), the customer’s authentication data (their PIN number), and the merchant’s transaction data (whatever the value is) before transmitting that data to a merchant’s acquirer.
From here, that data is transmitted by the acquirer to a card scheme (typically MasterCard or Visa). Afterward, the scheme transmits the data directly to an issuing bank (whomever the financial institution is that the card was issued by).
An issuer verifies that enough funds are in an account, as well as checks to see if the card in question was reported stolen by anyone. If such a report has been made, or if a card has insufficient funds, the authorization will then be declined by the issuer. Occasionally, an issuer will ask a merchant to manually check the identity of a cardholder if there is anything suspicious or abnormal about the transaction. If no reports of been made about the card, and there are plenty of funds on it, then the transaction will be authorized by the issuer.
Lastly, an issuer passes either the rejection or authorization through the chain (card scheme > merchant acquirer > merchant). The POS device will receive a message instructing the merchant to either proceed with or decline the transaction.
This entire process doesn’t take more than two seconds, for the most part, and usually transpires while the merchant and customer are engaging with one another.
That might be a lot of information to process, so here it is again, albeit a little more truncated.
Funny enough, there is no exchange of money during this whole process – and that includes after a merchant gets authorization from a customer’s bank.
Money is transferred to a merchant from the customer (settlement process) later. Here’s a brief rundown of what the process entails.
A settlement process lasts 1 to 3 days based on the business bank of the merchant and the acquirer’s identity.
Acquirers generally get funds from card schemes the same day the transaction takes place. Things are settled with the merchant either that very day or 48 hours later.
Who are PDQ Devices Made by?
Things get a little complicated here. There are several organizations who resell PDQ devices. Some actually rebrand PDQ devices before selling them off as one of their own.
There are approximately 24 different organizations that sell PDQ devices in the United Kingdom. Some you may not be familiar with include Datecs, ITWell, Bluebird. Some are a little more popular, such as First Data, Motorola, and Fujitsu.
In this portion, we will go over a few of the largest UK players that are on the market: Ingenico, Spire, and Verifone. You’ll get a short history of each company, as well as a description of some of their products.
Launched in France during 1980, Ingenico happens to be one of several big-name manufacturers of payment terminals that operates in the United Kingdom. As far as traditional retail goes, Ingenico is a trusted name. Expanding on its countertop PDQ devices, which are quite popular, the organization has been successful enough for retail landscape domination.
With that said, this company isn’t resting on its laurels. Ingenico has a vast array of different products that support alternating payment behaviors, which includes mobile items that integrate seamlessly with smartphones.
- Move/5000: a mobile or portable machine that supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPRS, and 3G, all of which allow you to liberally accept payments anywhere. A large touchscreen, built-in printer, and strong battery make this choice ideal for all sorts of companies.
- iCT250: a countertop machine developed for conventional retail settings with payment points that are fixed. Robust, small, and user-friendly, the iCT250 happens to be one of this company’s greatest successes.
- iPP350: this countertop machine was developed for conventional retail settings with payment points that are fixed. The iPP350 happens to be another incredibly successful offering from Ingenico. A robust build and superfast processing times really make this product stand out.
This Hawaii-based company was launched in the year 1981. Ever since then, VeriFone has expanded into more than 150 different countries.
VeriFone has a vast array of products to accept payments with, which includes full POS systems, automated payment acceptance solutions, and standalone card acceptance terminals.
Although VeriFone has achieved the same success that Ingenico has in the United Kingdom, it continues to expand with each passing year. Time will tell how this industry’s future pans out, particularly when you factor in recent payment behavior changes.
- P4000: this countertop machine (cheapest PDQ) has optional connectivity through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It is VeriFone’s flagship product, and includes a screen that is touch-enabled, as well as a very sturdy design.
- VX820: this older countertop machine was developed for conventional retail settings. It is VeriFone’s most popular PDQ device, and its success can be attributed to how well it handles the fundamentals.
- VX680: this mobile/portable device was developed for stadium vendors, delivery service providers, and everyone else who need to accept payments on the go. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and telephone networks are supported by the VX680, and as such, you’ll probably spot them in restaurants and bars just as much as you will in mobile environments.
In the year 1978, David Saul, Leslie Fritz, and George Wallner founded a company known as Hypercom. This payment terminal organization achieved great success with South Pacific-based businesses. In 2011, Ingenico acquired the company.
Having said that, the Spanish and UK operations were separately sold to an investment company known as Spire.
Although Spire hasn’t achieved the same success in Europe that Hypercom did with South Pacific businesses, we are interested in how it will develop within the next 10 years or so.
- SPc50: a countertop machine developed for POS systems (busy retailers, in particular). This device includes ethernet, GPRS, and even dial-up connectivity. The SPc50 has a thermal printer built into it.
- SPw70: this portable machine was developed for retail, hospitality, and kiosk-based businesses. The device uses either a USB (wired) or Wi-Fi connection. The battery has a long life, promising you at least 80 hours worth of standby time or 300 individual transactions before a recharge is warranted.
- SPw60: This mobile machine was developed for music or sporting events, market stalls, and trade shows. The device uses a phone network (GPRS or GSM) for connectivity. If available, it can use Wi-Fi, too. The long-lasting battery will give you 80 hours worth of standby time or 300 individual transactions before warranting a recharge.
Is it Cheaper to Rent or Purchase a PDQ Device?
Merchants will need to determine whether they will lease/rent a PDQ device from their supplier or buy one outright.
There are several pros and cons of each option, so it wouldn’t be fair for us to say you should pick one over the other. The following section will address both options, as well as explore the advantages and disadvantages of each.
It is fairly simple to rent a PDQ device. You simply pay the supplier a specific amount each month, and continue to do so for a certain amount of time. When your contract ends, you can either renew your contract or return the device.
What Makes Renting a Worthwhile Option?
If your company doesn’t have the £800 required to buy a PDQ device, then renting lets you divide the costs up over a certain amount of time. This is particularly helpful if you are purchasing more than one terminal for your company, since it doesn’t take long for the costs to add up.
For the most part, terminal rentals come with a lot more customer support than you’d get if you just bought one. If the device were to break, your supplier will replace the product. Note – go over your contract with a fine-tooth comb, as this feature may not be included.
Why Renting Isn’t a Worthwhile Option
The contract you signed will last for multiple years. If the requirements of your business change, being stuck in your contract won’t always work out well for you.
Additionally, when you tally-up your payments each month, you’ll find that it will always cost a lot more than simply purchasing the device outright.
Lastly, you will receive a guarantee. You may get extra support, too. If you don’t, you might have to fend for yourself if something were to go wrong with the warranty your device comes with.
Buying Pros and Cons
Buying is just as simple. You pay whatever the list price is in full all at once. After you do, the PDQ device belongs to you.
What Makes Buying a Worthwhile Option?
If you can afford to pay for a device at once, doing so will make things cheaper for you, big-picture wise. You won’t have to pay ongoing rental fees each month.
Why Buying a PDQ machine is not always the cheapest way
If you decide to purchase the terminal, then you will be responsible for all the support, upgrade, and repair expenses after the warranty it comes with expires. As such, if the PDQ device were to suddenly malfunction after the expiration of your warranty, you will have to cover the repair costs or buy another one.
In such cases, buying a cheap PDQ device will end up being costlier than renting one.
You must also consider issues pertaining to upgrading. You will need to buy another PDQ device if updating to the most recent version is necessary.